Sip some wine and share your finds with guests over the holidays

The new tasting room at Williamson Winery is located at 14807 Sunny Slope Road in Caldwell. It’s a warm and roomy venue to sip and learn.
The new tasting room at Williamson Winery is located at 14807 Sunny Slope Road in Caldwell. It’s a warm and roomy venue to sip and learn. The Idaho Statesman

The holiday parties and opportunities to entertain with wine are going to be coming at you like snowflakes on the windshield very soon.

I am hoping to help you prepare to make wise wine decisions. There is only one way to do that — get out there and taste.

How many times have you given or served a bottle to someone and you’d never taken a sip yourself? Not too many of us would serve a recipe we’ve never prepared, so why serve a wine without tasting it? Labels, prices and even the “points” associated with a wine can be deceiving and disappointing.

You wouldn’t be reading this if you were not interested in wine. So, empower yourself. Take the next step and start sampling wines before sharing them. This will help you begin to form a “palate frame of reference” that will serve you and friends well.

My general advice as the holidays approach is to offer sparkling, whites and reds to your guests — usually in that order. There’s nothing like being greeted at the door with a flute of something fizzy, followed by a white or light red with appetizers — and then progressing to a nice bold red for the main course.

Here’s one suggested lineup, using all Idaho wines: a 2014 Coiled “Rizzo” sparkling dry Riesling ($27) as guests arrive, followed by a 2014 Hat Ranch Chardonnay ($20) or a 2014-2015 Cinder Viognier ($18). I might also offer a 2013 Sawtooth “Classic Fly” Grenache ($32) for those appetizers and go bold with a 2015 Koenig Reserve Fraser Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) for a dinner involving meat.

Another way to go would be to serve through appropriate varietals from the same winery. A fairly new Oregon winery that comes to mind is Fullerton, based in Beaverton but sourcing its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir mainstays from the Willamette Valley area. Their delicious wines come under two labels: Fullerton and Three Otters.

Start with either a 2015 Three Otters Rosé ($18) or a 2014 Three Otters Chardonnay ($20) and then pair one of the Fullerton Pinot Noirs with dinner. I suggest the 2014 Croft Vineyard Pinot Noir ($43), which is so smooth, light and fruity it could pair well with most fish and fowl, but especially salmon or duck. I found a number of the Three Otters offerings at the Boise Co-op Wine Shop.

Since the goal is for you to develop that palate and begin to make your own decisions, here are some opportunities to get out there and taste:

Sunday: Sip your way through the Annual Wine and Cheese Sale at either location of the Boise Co-op Wine Shop: 915 N. 8th St. in Boise and 2350 N. Eagle Road in Meridian. That includes free wine tastings from noon to 5 p.m. at both locations. The wine shop will be host to nearly a dozen wine brokers. You can sample wines from near and far and make educated purchases for your holiday needs at 15 percent discounts.

Any day: Check out the new City Center Wines shop, 574 Main St., Boise, where you can select European and domestic wines. Or visit the new Williamson Winery Tasting Room, 14807 Sunny Slope Road, Caldwell. It’s a very cool and accommodating space located just down the road from The Orchard restaurant. Though you ought to taste through their wonderful lineup, I am partial to the Sangiovese and Reserve Petite Sirah they make — two wines that would pair nicely with holiday main courses. The $5 tasting fee is refundable with purchase.

Dec. 10: Crossings Winery in Glenns Ferry is hosting its first “Bubble Off” — a blind tasting/judging event where guests are the judges. You’ll sample 15 champagnes (likely to include some of The Crossings’ own sparkling offerings) from around the world — including Dom Perignon. It’s $50 per person. Tickets must be purchased before Wednesday at 5 p.m. Call (208) 366-2313 or purchase online at or

Robert Ehlert: 208-377-6437, @IDS_HelloIdaho